By Travis Mullis
Next week the Independent Picture House hosts the Charlotte Film Festival, which will run from Sept. 27 to Oct. 1. In preparation, I got together with Taylor Montalto, the festival’s programming director, to talk about all things film and learn about what’s heading the festival’s way this year.
First, can you tell us a little about yourself and the festival?
Originally from Charlotte, I grew up obsessed with movies and was inspired to study film by my idol, Nora Ephron. My passion for arts nonprofits has continued in both my professional and personal life. I currently work full-time in a hybrid capacity as education program coordinator for Atlanta Film Society / Atlanta Film Festival and continue to play an active role in the Charlotte cultural arts scene. Apart from serving as programming director for Charlotte Film Festival, I am also a senior usher for Blumenthal Performing Arts and a floor staff member for IPH. I have a bachelor’s in film and journalism from the University of North Carolina Wilmington.
With the Charlotte Film Festival, we strive to bring the most innovative independent cinema to Charlotte for our patrons and film enthusiasts from neighboring states. The festival has evolved, but what remains consistent is our mission to “Discover Different” and to provide the highest quality experience for filmmakers and audience members alike.
What does the lineup of films this year look like, and what does it say about the state of the industry?
This year, we had the second-largest number of submissions in our history. I’m excited for audiences to see the diverse slate of films selected. The variety of films being offered to our audiences, especially from our local and regional filmmakers, is a reminder that the Carolinas and specifically Charlotte continue to have a strong creative community that wants to see independent filmmaking.
More than 130 films will screen during the festival (up from last year), with films coming from 17 countries including Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, Germany, Hungary, Iran, Japan, Korea, Luxembourg, Malaysia, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, United Kingdom, Venezuela and, of course, the United States. Some featured films have screened at other major festivals including Sundance, SXSW, Telluride and TIFF. Charlotte filmmakers have a strong presence with 11 films that will be screened.
Highlighted official selections and special presentation films include ᏓᏗᏬᏂᏏ (We Will Speak), Robot Dreams, Mountains, You Can Call Me Bill (an intimate portrait of William Shatner) and Perfect Days (the latest film from Wim Wenders and Japan’s entry for the 2024 International Oscar).
Those attending will see six categories of film: documentary features, documentary shorts, narrative features, narrative shorts, student shorts and, for the first time, a dedicated block of animated shorts. The festival will also be bringing back the Carolina Crafted Films: Regional Filmmaker Roundtable from last year, as well as the 1CLT Film Fest: Local Film Festival Panel Discussion.
Can you tell us about the history of the festival and where you think it’s going?
In 2006, the Charlotte Film Festival was created to give established and emerging filmmakers a weekend festival to showcase their works for industry peers and avid enthusiasts of independent film. Over the years, it has grown to include state-of-the-art venues, attracting filmmakers from around the world as well as industry professionals, corporate sponsorships and a dedicated audience.
Since I came on board in 2016, fresh out of college, I worked my way up from general volunteer to programming director in 2020. My first year in the role I organized an entirely virtual festival due to the pandemic. This will be our second year in our permanent home at the Independent Picture House.
Is there a film or an event you are most excited about?
I’m really excited to have programmed the festival’s first Animated Shorts block, which features films I helped our team at Atlanta Film Festival program earlier this year, as well as selected films from both Sundance and SXSW. I’m also pumped about our late-night narrative shorts block this year, Narrative Shorts #8, which features films from alumni filmmakers. It doesn’t get much more “Discover Different” than that!
What impact do film festivals have on younger filmmakers and independent films?
I think they are incredibly impactful. The level of creativity and passion expressed in independent film is unmatched by mainstream cinema. Film festivals give people of all ages an opportunity to exhibit original work, network with industry professionals and make lasting connections that have the potential to carry you to unexpected places. When I graduated from college and was figuring out how I wanted to get involved in the industry, I started attending and getting involved with film festivals. I often think people don’t realize how much goes into planning a film festival (operations, marketing, programming, business, etc.) and that what we do as festival organizers is not for the money. I work for Charlotte Film Festival in an entirely volunteer capacity, on top of managing a full-time and two part-time jobs. We do it because we love it. We have a desire to support filmmakers where they are and provide a platform for them to show their work to the world.
Are the strikes in Hollywood affecting the film festival circuit this year?
The strikes by Hollywood writers and actors haven’t really impacted smaller regional film festivals like CFF.
If people want to get involved with the festival, how can they do so?
Please follow us on social media!
If you are looking to volunteer, we invite you to sign up here!
Can you give us an overview of each day’s screenings and how to purchase tickets?
The best way to see what is playing and when is to check out our full schedule here. Individual tickets are on sale, as well as ticket packs, which will provide you major savings if you’d like to join us for multiple films. The packs will give you a promo code that you can use to redeem tickets from the schedule. You can use them however you like, whether it’s five tickets to one show, or one ticket to five shows. This is the best way to experience all that the festival has to offer.